Print studios


Normally I don’t write about the studio where I make most of my work, but I should. It’s been my favourite place to retreat to and ponder on life, and allows my prints to develop and grow of their own accord. This year I have had the privilege to be the chair of this organisation, East London Printmakers, which is a group of around 200 artists (and 40 keyholders) who all love making prints. The studio has been based in Hackney for over 14 years, a grimy part of London (remember those riots in 2011? they happened outside our front door) until it became a hip, bespoke playground for the rich and bored. And inevitably, the rents shot up and we were forced to think about moving, or folding. So we moved.

elp-studio-warmer_eeeMoving house is like throwing everything up in the air and then trying to relax when you can’t find it any more because it landed somewhere unexpected. Anyway we’ve done it. Thousands, literally thousands of hours of plotting, planning, constructing, sanding, polishing, painting, packing, moving, organising happened. Mainly all of it was done by members and studio keyholders for free… Of course the presses were moved professionally by the very excellent Giles of AMR and Mike Kirby of Linecasting Machinery, and new walls and floor and heating and lighting had to be installed as well… And the new landlords, Acme studios, have been incredibly welcoming: contributing practically and financially to helping us move in.

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East London Printmakers is now based in a beautiful studio (42 Copperfield Road) sandwiched between the canal and the park, close to Mile End station. We reopened 1st October and are planning a party on 22nd October. This is a studio warming party, to invite people over to come see us, and find out more about printmaking, to thank everyone who has supported us, and to invite continued support for the future.

img_5441The press release is below. Please come!!

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PS> One of the rewards will be this print in pink, or the one above in blue, which you can come and print yourself and take away for a fiver!! If you can’t make it, let me know and I’ll save one for you… elp-studio-warmer_pink_e

I’ve just come back from a March printmaking bonanza! Firstly, New York and the Metropolitan Art Museum, and then the Southern Graphics Conference in Tennessee. Here are some of the things I saw…

IMG_8824_eAt New York’s Center for Book Arts, I enjoyed John Jacobsmeyer’s show More Than Human, a sequence of over 80 wood engravings all cut from cross-sections of the same 40-year-old maple tree, representing an American Sign Language interpretation of the soliloquy in James Dickey’s poem Sheep Child.

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Noah Breuer and I then went to NYU to teach printmaking. Here are some of the students looking at my books.

IMG_8828_eAt the NY Metropolitan Art Museum print department I had a look at the anamorphic prints in their collection as research for my talk on Distortion.

IMG_8921_eI was completely stunned by this etching by Kathe Kollwitz and some small Posada prints which were there.IMG_8908_eKnoxville is located in Tennessee close to the Great Smoky Mountains; Dolly Wood, home of Dolly Parton; a building called the Sunsphere (that looks like a tomoato on a stick); and the University of Tennessee. I stayed in downtown Gay Street in a loft in the iconic Sterchi Apartment block, with the most amazing view.

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Printmaking madness was already obvious on the campus, with Crystal Wagner’s huge installation of prints that looked like a cascading dragon stretching over three floors and entering the gallery space itself.

IMG_9019_eThe print department was really spacious and boasted the largest (reportedly) American French Tool press in the USA, along with a wide array of printing stations ranging from litho at one end to screenprint and the other.

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I admired the beautiful prints by Karen Kunc and Tracy Templeton, who had visited the department.

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Off site shows were rich and varied, sadly I forgot to take photos of many favourites. However, here are a few good uns: local Yee Haw industries letterpress posters which were full of colour and wit…

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Happy printers from Drive by Press located in Striped Light letterpress studio giving a popular demo of T shirt printing…IMG_9249_eMiguel Aragon’s sobering series of victims of the Mexican border wars (drug cartels struggling for supremacy): laser-cut burnt residue embossed prints based on newspaper photographs….

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Wroclaw school of art graduate Agatha Gertchen’s incredible linocuts…IMG_9161_e_agathagertchen

And fellow Wroclaw printmaker Zuzanna Dyrda’s witty print intervention on the occasion of her mum’s marriage…IMG_9167_e_zuzannadyrda

Art Werger’s multiplate mezzzotint colour trial proofs… (honestly mad)IMG_9301_werger_e

IMG_9290_eUniversity of Tennessee graduate Jade Hoyer’s lithographic print installation…IMG_9220_e_jadehoyer

Select Serigraphics poster designs, combining retro elegance with op art and current bands…IMG_9237_e_selectserigraphics

Norwegian Tom Stian Kosmo’s mezzotint Surrender…IMG_9172_e_tomstiankosmo

Ericka Walker’s vintage style aphorisms…IMG_9333_e_erickawalker

Hannah Skoonberg’s delicate landscapes…IMG_9340_e_hannahskoonberg

Lauren Kussro’s mad seascape installation…IMG_9351_laurenkussro IMG_9350_laurenkussro

Emily Minnie’s printed wallpaper…IMG_9358_emilyminnie Liz Klimek’s printed and folded houses…IMG_9356_lizklimek

Intense subject matter and beautiful prints were paired with generous helpings of food at the private views… (We may be artists but we shall not starve!)

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In town, I also saw a few random print events such as this striped tent with painted beer cans…

IMG_9225_eLetterpress studio The Happy Envelope…

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Tatiana Potts wall installation…IMG_9085_e_tatianapotts

Interesting demos including electronic circuits…

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Brian Gonzales of Illegitimate Press, North Carolina showing off his thermographic ink printsIMG_9438_e_thermochromic

Apart from the displays of work, of which I’ve only photographed a small portion, there were some great talks. Sarah Suzuki of MOMA in NY gave a really lucid talk on the burring of lines between the printed useful object and the printed fine art singular object: illustrating her talk with artists such as Tabaimo who uses the printed aesthetic of Ukiyo-e as an essential flavour to her digitally scanned animations; Gert and Uwe Tobias, whose monumental jigsawed prints are unique rather than multiplied; Ellen Gallagher whose layouts were scanned, printed, scratched, added to painted on and reverted to sculptural form again; Daido Moriyama whose book Printing Show 2011 consists of a selection of digital images that viewers are able to sequence order and print themselves; Qiu Anxiong whose beautiful woodcuts show modern stealth bombers and genetically modified creatures.

Another favourite was Amze Emmon’s talk on print in the built environment, how we are surrounded by buildings which have hoardings, some of which describe the contents, some of which describe what will be there in future, and some of which, particularly in China, which have pictures of photoshopped idyllic landscapes far removed from the migrant worker housing that they shield.

IMG_4090_SGCI_eMy involvement in the lecture programme was on Friday 20th March when the panel I had coordinated gave their talks on the topic of Distortion. Noah Breuer and Julia Lillie talked about distorted materiality, in the mimicking of other techniques such as watercolour, engraving, stains and blood in printed format. John Jacobsmeyer talked about renaissance perspectival striving for an elusive truth, and how this delineates subject from object, which is confounded in contemporary approaches. I gave a survey on the topic of distortion, with our desire to see things and faces where there are none, tricks and marvels of machinery, and what happens when machines contribute a distorted view of the world. Erik Brunvand talked about sonic distortion and how to print with conductive ink to create speakers which were activated through electromagnetic signals. It was fascinating for me to hear what the others have been researching.

We jumped around afterwards making distorted poses to celebrate!!IMG_4097_SGCI_e

I came to the realisation that the unending forest would be ever spookier if the trees mirrored each other. One minute you would think you’d know where you were going, the next you’d be passing by a world which you’d seen before, but in reverse…

Here are some shots of the printing process of these big prints. Because of the scale, I had to divide the image in four and screenprint them one  quarter at a time on the fabric bed, as the largest screen bed wasn’t large enough…

 

 

 

 

I’ve been printing these in East London Printmakers for my show in Wales that opens in 3 days time!!!


 

Went for a well deserved swim after all that work. I think I’m building up my shoulder muscles!

The SGCI conference in New Orleans was a right bonanza.

Imagine over 1500 printmakers all partying in a town famous for its hedonism, fried food and jazz. Seriously, there are naked lap-dancers in the bars in the middle of the day!

It was amazing. The town is set on the banks of the Mississippi, a steamy grey thing.

Buildings are graceful and crumbling, and palm trees and huge spreading live oaks line the avenues, which still retain their French names.

Highlights for me were numerous. Willie Cole opened the conference with a keynote speech about his artistic practice which involves a method of mark making with a hot iron which he calls scorching, which in effect is a type of printed mark. His work was beautiful and playful, taking photographs of irons and making them into mask like faces, or using the ironed marks to make huge figure composites.

There was a great exhibition of prints by David Dreisbach, who was awarded the printmaker emeritus prize by the Southern Graphics council this year, in the Contemporary Arts Center.

I marveled at his narrative and compositional strength, all while tucking into perhaps the most delicious spread of food ever seen at a private view before. Appreciating art must be hungry work, seeing how much they’d laid out.

There were inspiring, ambitious and fantastic demonstrations especially the rubber stamp one by Sukha Worob who showed us how he cuts into foam board with a router set to 1/4″ depth and then fills the mould with a solution of silicone rubber composite called “Mold Max”

and some great silkscreen prints printed by Ernest Milsted with wallpaper paste and water soluble dyes in place of the traditional acrylics and medium, producing lovely prints all at a fraction of the cost.

There were some very impressive satellite events. I particularly liked Dirk Hagen’s broadside text speak haikus which he’d printed on letterpress and cardboard.

A lovely show of prints about New Orleans and the floods in the hippily named Healing Centre.

A nice set of prints in various portfolios were displayed in the hotel conference venue on grey pinboards and rotated daily; some of these were delicate and beautiful.

Also Midwest Pressed had a great show of silkscreen monoprints which were installed as a huge panel of floating heads of famous figures, skulls or Chewbacca.

This is my friend Brian Lane, from Seattle, who looks  a bit like Chewie.

Most notable for me was the Carnival of Ink set in an old ironworks factory to the east of the main town. This was a riot of printmaking activity.

Drive-by-press  printed T-shirts with skateboards (just inked up and jammed through the press with a foam blanket).

The main event was run by Wolfbat Press, and involved hundreds of artists who spent the week of the conference decorating box cars with collaged prints which were paraded them through the town on St Patrick’s day before setting them on fire.

Several studios ran various fun fair style games such as “Wrassle a printmaker and win a print for a dollar” which had me in fits of laughter.

I presented a paper on movement in print in the International panel which got some good feedback, if you would like to read the article then please go this page here,

then showed the animations Shift and Lucid Mask, along with a selection of prints at the open portfolio session,

which was a great time to meet other printmakers whose work I admire

Like Ben Moreau’s gorgeous etchings

Some print genius Marcus Benavides

Michael Barnes

Mark Bovey

And oh so many more…!

I promised myself I would never again venture up north in February, but found myself in Liverpool, Preston and Manchester this week, and loved it!

First stop was Liverpool, with its shabby buildings conveying a sense of elegant (or otherwise) decay.

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I stopped off at the wonderful Bluecoat where there was a very arresting show by Gina Czarnecki. Her work is about the human body moving in space, and I found her video work very inspiring. The portrayal of frenzied and slow motion arabesquing movement is really beautiful.  I also loved the castle made of clear resin, much like spun glass, which is due to be encrusted with thousands of donated milk teeth in the four years to come. I wish I had retained my extracted wisdom tooth from a couple of weeks ago to add to the project!

There was another whimsical show called Republic of the Moon in FACT which was a great combination of sound, smell, installation and imagery. I particularly liked the “Moon Goose Analogue” by Agnes Meyer-Brandis, who has taken geese hatched and raised as if future super star astronauts. These cute fluffy things have been named patriotic space age names such as Boris and Svetlana, and spend their days wandering around happily in a lunar landscape space station in Italy, with a live feed to Liverpool.

Next stop was the University of Lancashire in Preston. It was surprisingly mild. I checked out the largest brutalist bus station in Europe and then the Harris museum.

There was  nice print show about walking the land, with multilayered boggy coloured meshes of paper installed in a quivering column above the central stairwell, by Tracy Hill, my host.

I toured the print department and had instant print studio envy when looking at their beautiful Columbian press. They have a very spacious department run by Pete Clarke and Tracy Hill pictured here.

I gave a talk on my work to local artists and students as part of their Art Lab talking Prints series, and showed them some of the latest video work.

For a nice review of what I talked about, please see the link here http://artlabcontemporaryprint.co.uk/?p=642

Afterwards I laid out a selection of prints from the past 12 years for them to view.

On my return trip I went via Manchester. It was rain rain rain, so a good opportunity to lurk around inside some great galleries, like the Portico Library where i saw a show on Victoriana, taxidermy and penny dreadfuls, and the Manchester Museum of Art. Ken Currie’s huge dystopian cityscape and Antony Gormley’s flying man were my favourite pieces in the Museum, alongside Grayson Perry’s ironic map of society (and technically brilliant etching) “Print for a Politician”.

Finally, I attended a private view in the Chinese Art Centre: Chen Man, a young photographer from China. Strangely enough, no-one mentions that she is also very proficient in Photoshop. Her images of women are stylized, glamorous, objectifying and sexual. The show is lavish! Fantasy female faces with luscious lips are printed larger than a metre high, and the imagery is appealing, commercial and desirable. (Shu Uemura sponsored the opening event with make up remover)… I liked seeing a successful female artist in such a solo show, but couldn’t decide if the vision presented was empowering or degrading to women.

 

Click on the picture above to go to youtube video of Costanza with music by Mordant Music… Costanza’s feet resemble fluttering moths batting against a pane of light.

The beginning of January was the last chance to see the Big Ass Linocut show in London: where megalomaniac linocut makers gathered at the High Roller Society to show off their huge linocut skills. My prints Shadow Dance Together and Shadow Dance Apart were shown there, along with the animation Lucid Mask.

The show is going to evolve and expand when it moves to its next location, Hemingway Art in Oxfordshire in April this year.

Next up, I’m excited to be involved in the 6th International Artist Book Triennial which opens in Venice on the 3rd February. The theme this year is Love, and three of my books have been selected: Devour (the girl who loves and devours a beast); Embrace (the book where the man and the woman are divided by the folds of the book so that they may not be viewed at the same time together); and Bamboo Dream (where a couple are dreaming of each other on accordion folded sheets that interleave as the book folds together).

For more information please see their website here

Finally, it is full speed ahead for making the final frames for the animation. Actually I started animating the dress, then realised I needed more in between frames, so here I am back in the studio printing away still.

I’m venturing back up north again on the 8th February as a guest of the University of Lancashire Talking Prints program. I’ll be talking about this latest work … Should be interesting, though I’ve not booked to stay long as I had such a cold time in Yorkshire last year…

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